E te iti me te rahi, ka mōhio tātau, nā te hekenga nui o ngā waka o nehe rā, ka tae mai ā o tātau tīpuna ki te motu nei, inā ka puta mai ko tātau te iwi Māori. Nō reira, mehemea nō Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa tātau, me ahu atu anō tātau ki a ia hei whai oranga mō ngā uri whakatupu.
Māori were once wayfinders and traders of the Pacific - and we can be again.
As Māori come from our ancestor, the Great Ocean of Kiwa, it is only fitting that we should turn back to Kiwa in our search for a shared prosperity with our Indigenous relations of the Asia-Pacific region.
But the region is big, with many diverse nations, so why and how we do this must be carefully considered.
At the Context: Asia-Pacific Summit held by the Centres of Asia-Pacific Excellence in Tāmaki Makaurau on Tuesday, Māori, Pasifika and other Indigenous entrepreneurs, researchers and business leaders gathered to discuss that very question: why and how can we connect and do business with the Asia-Pacific? Three main reasons suggest this might be a good idea.
Navigating business opportunities in Asia-Pacific
First is whakapapa - genealogy. Māori, Pacific and Asian peoples share a common heritage as Austronesians, part of a 4000-year-old ocean-going migration of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, starting in Taiwan and ending in Aotearoa, the final sizable landmass on Earth to be settled.
Second is whānau - family
Despite differences in scale, family or whānau enterprise is an enduring form of business across the Asia-Pacific. Working with and for whānau brings a sense of belonging, pride, and obligation to focus on whānau wellbeing. A similar emphasis on family means doing business together as whānau across the Asia-Pacific should be easier.
Third is whanaungatanga - relationships
Māori and Indigenous world views are relational, they see themselves and everything around them as related—humans, nature, and spiritual elements. Relationships must be established before business proceeds.
Another reason for strengthening our Asia-Pacific connections shone through in our kōrero. Fellow panellist Jamie Rihia of Whāriki and Tauhara North No. 2 Trust said that entrepreneurship and business are crucial, and potentially the fastest way forward for our whānau. We were joined by others working hard to build business opportunities for Māori and Pasifika peoples - Jacqui Caine of Ngāi Tahu, and Sarah Rennie and Kim Tuaine, both Cook Island wāhine, of Oyster Workshop.
Renowned broadcaster and summit MC, Julian Wilcox, jovially claimed that our great ancestors had foreseen this panel and he was anticipating our kōrero - talk about pressure!
He did, however, "throw us bone", which I gladly seized. Julian referred to esteemed Māori scholar, the late associate professor Mānuka Hēnare, who had been instrumental in furthering Māori business knowledge at Waipapa Taumata Rau - the University of Auckland.
Chartering a course for a sustainable, inclusive and profitable future
Now Mānuka was a luminary of Māori history and business, and he managed to stitch the two together in ways that honour our past and connect our future. An economy of mana, in which the purpose of enterprise is to enhance the mana of others is one of his intellectual legacies.
The whole idea depended on the harmonious working together of spiritual, ecological and human societies, but he didn't say how.
A few of my academic colleagues and I looked for clues in the concept of hau, which Mānuka describes as a spiritual energy that passes from the giver to the receiver of gifts creating an obligation on the receiver to reciprocate, and on it goes.
We combined mana and hau to produce a theory of value called manahau. Now manahau suggests that balance in relationships is achieved through reciprocity.
At a system level, the obligation to give back as much as you receive from others, others being people, the environment, and the spiritual realm, may act as a powerful curb on patterns of excess consumption and production.
At a business level, manahau may help entrepreneurs balance cultural and commercial imperatives not as trade-offs but as reciprocity. Many speakers at the Summit reinforced the idea that Māori values can help Aotearoa do business in ways that are sustainable, inclusive, and profitable.
The building blocks of Indigenous entrepreneurial ecosystems
The audience, featuring many tauira and rangatahi in business, asked us how do we build Indigenous entrepreneurial ecosystems across the Asia-Pacific. Entrepreneurial ecosystems are a way of bringing together the combined resources of society, firms and markets to help entrepreneurs succeed.
Silicon Valley from the West and Hong Kong from the East are two well-known examples. Entrepreneurial ecosystems are an appealing aroma for policy makers, but recreating them is difficult.
An Indigenous entrepreneurial ecosystem is essentially what Indigenous communities are doing to create Indigenous enterprises and how they are supported to do so.
At their centre is a focus on Indigenous peoples' wellbeing, while indigeneity - consisting of Indigenous identities, values, knowledge, and world views - must also be present.
While whanaungatanga helps entrepreneurs navigate Indigenous entrepreneurial ecosystems, it is institutions like the Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement (IPECTA) and the Centres of Asia-Pacific Excellence (CAPEs) that will help set them up across the Asia-Pacific. Indigenous leadership and adequate resources are a must if this effort is to be successful.
With many young Māori, Pasifika, and Asia-Pacific people at the summit, our panel offered words of advice. Kim Tuaine of Oyster Workshop, a Pasifika entrepreneurial educator said "find your people, because it's lonely". Knowing who you are has always been a foundation for Māori success and will be essential to reconnecting with the Asia-Pacific.
• Dr Jason Paul Mika, (Tuhoe, Ngāti Awa, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Kahungunu) is an Associate Professor of Māori Business, University of Waikato